The marching band field was quiet.
A freshman saxophone player, Duane Hill, looked up at Goin’ Band from Raiderland director Keith Bearden and knew what he wanted to become.
“I just remember looking up the ladder at the 50-yard line and saying, ‘I want to do exactly what he’s doing. I want that job.’ ” Hill recalled. “I had no idea how I was going to get there, when I was going to get there, but I knew that was a long-term goal of mine. The fact that it happened so soon, and early in my career is still kind of mind-blowing. I definitely feel like I’m in the place I need to be and should be, that’s for sure.”
Hill, 31, was officially appointed to marching band director at Texas Tech in the spring after serving in an interim capacity for two years.
The journey to his dream job was a complex one.
Hill first knew he wanted to be a band director in sixth grade. He played saxophone at Lockhart High School, a Class 4A school outside of Austin, and was the first one in his family to be involved with music instead of sports.
He happened to come to Tech by chance.
“I was planning on going to a university closer to my home,” Hill said. “A good friend of mine was coming up to Tech, and she didn’t want to drive by herself to visit the school, so I drove up with her. I fell in love with the campus. I fell in love with the people. The more I started to find out about the music program, I knew there was no other place for me to go.”
Hill said it was the atmosphere that drew him in. The Goin’ Band was like a family, and he believed the students mattered.
Even when people told him the Goin’ Band was a great program, and he would love it, he didn’t fully understand until he was part of the now 87-year-old tradition.
Standing in his first rehearsal, listening to the band, just felt right.
Throughout his years at Tech, Hill was involved with service music fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi and served as social chair and president of the band. Outside of band, he was involved with freshman orientation, served as a community adviser and worked at the Tech radio station.
“That kind of helped mold who I am today and my view on the university and kind of our role in it,” he said.
The first time Hill auditioned to be a drum major, he didn’t make it. He hadn’t prepared as much as he should have, and it showed, he said. The following year, in 2002, he was appointed to assistant drum major.
“It was the last year Mr. Bearden was here. (He) had been here for 23 years,” Hill said. “I think it actually was a blessing in disguise. I think I was meant to help with the transition. My last year as drum major — I was one of the lead drum majors — it was Christopher Anderson’s first year as a band director. Any transition is difficult to put together. I think I helped, along with several others, of course, with that transition and making it a little bit easier to inform Anderson of some the things that were unique to us and kind of build a bridge between the old and the new.”
After graduating in spring 2004, Hill went to work at Leander High School for four years. He said he enjoyed working with young students, helping them mature and grow as musicians.
After speaking with Director of Bands Sarah McKoin, he went against his decision to not return to Tech for graduate school.
It was one more step that would lead him to his dream job.
“The strange thing is, and I still believe this to this day, is I think the reason why God encouraged me to come back to Tech, is this moment now,” Hill said. “A lot of things had to fall into place for me to be in this position.”
After studying for his master’s degree under McKoin, an interim position opened when Anderson went back to get his doctorate. McKoin said Hill had many of the qualifications required, so she pitched that he become involved in the interim.
The position was supposed to last one year, and ended up lasting two. A national search was conducted when the position opened full time, and candidates came from across the nation, McKoin said.
Hill’s experiences and qualities stood out among the others.
“Duane’s like a big heart with arms and legs. ... He was a former drum major here, so he’s got a history with the ensemble,” McKoin said. “Your undergraduate institution is always special. It’s more special, often, than your graduate program because you’re more vested in that time in your life, and it means a great deal. He bleeds red and black. He’s got a lot. He’s great for the alumni.
“He’s part of the thread in the fabric of the traditions of the Goin’ Band.”
Senior Catherine Cage, one of this season’s lead drum majors, said she has learned leadership skills from Hill that she will keep with her when she becomes a teacher.
Hill always is fun to be around and wants what is best for the band, she said.
Hill has an open-door policy and is more than a teacher, Cage said. He’s a mentor.
“He really tries hard to make it enjoyable for everyone, which is hard with 400 people,” she said. “It’s almost impossible, but he does it.”
As director of the Goin’ Band, Hill wants his students to have their own experiences, not relive his.
He said he doesn’t get cocky about the somewhat high-profile job because “when you’re doing what you know you’re meant to do, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.”
He works to keep the band involved in the Lubbock community, which has supported the band since it began. The Goin’ Band takes time to perform at local high school football games, in the Lubbock Band Extravaganza and the Lubbock Music Festival, he said.
Hill said he was beginning to get jitters as today’s 6 p.m. season opener against Northwestern State approached.
Cage also is anticipating the Goin’ Band’s first halftime performance of the season.
“There’s so many traditions that kind of faded throughout the years, and (Hill) is bringing them back in and kind of revamping them and kind of putting a style on the Goin’ Band and making it better than it’s ever been before,” she said.
The band is in a new location this year. It’s been moved to the south end zone for amplified sound.
Hill said the season will be a good mix of old and new for the Goin’ Band from Raiderland.
“I’m just really excited,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people consider this to be my first year, although I’ve been here the last two years in this particular role. I’m excited for our students and our fans to get a taste of something that’s a little bit fresh, that’s just a little different.”
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